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NOTE: the leash reactivity is ONLY towards dogs

My boy will soon be 11 months old and is still intact. Right now I am just beyond frustrated with this issue... It started when he was almost 6 months old, I enrolled him in a group class maybe a week and a half after it began. We did a lot of positive reinforcement CU type stuff, he did fine in class with the other dogs though occasionally barked at the over rambunctious young dobie male but it was only because they wanted to play. His barking back then seemed to be frustration at wanting to play with the other dog, off leash he is totally fine with dogs... wonderful with them, in fact. Overall though with the positive training I saw little results, now it seems to be morphing into a whole other monster... My herding instructor said it looks like a bit of uncertainty/possibly lack of confidence plus protectiveness.

Recently I have been using a prong though haven't ever given much of a correction with it, it just helps to keep him from going into that state and lunging... A harness or martingale collar just doesn't give me as much control over him. I use treats too to distract him and reward him, it works but if I did not have both those things he would still be on the end of his leash lunging and barking. We are going back to group training next week.

I am just getting so much conflicting information... Treat, treat, treat from the positive camp and correction, correction, correction from the people I train with who are admittedly more old school. I have tried the whole being at a distance and working our way closer CU stuff, it's just not always realistic in the real world... I can't control where every dog is and where they're going plus I live in a very crowded area. Can leash reactivity towards dogs be caused by not enough exercise and/or mental activity... Could it just be a sign I need to up these things? Which I have no issue doing, just everything else I'm doing doesn't seem to be working.

This dog is giving me grey hairs. :) :help:
 

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Could you give more of an explanation of what you're doing with positive reinforcement? There's many different reward-based ways to go about training reactivity, some having more success than others.

But with my girl, Alice, who is dog-reactive definitely has a harder time if she was not exercised or worked mentally prior.


Another thing, how long have you been working on it? Is it possible that you might be focusing on the bad and not noticing the little improvements or expecting too much too soon? (I'm bad at this myself)

There will be bad days before things get good. Just like humans, dogs don't always have good days and that will sometimes reflect in their behavior. Obviously more so with a reactive dog. If you have one or two bad days, don't feel discouraged. :)


But just from my personal experience with my boy when he was having dog-reactivity issues, the prong only made it worse for him. If he lunged or pulled towards another dog it would only amp him up and at times turned the reactivity to aggression.

As said though, that is personal experience.

I would see about possibly getting private lessons from a trainer who can go out and accompany you in these real-life situations.
 

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Well for Ollie the prong actually seems to keep him from getting ramped up, I'm able to keep enough control over him to where he doesn't try and lunge though I am open to not using it again. I've used a sensation harness and right now he has a freedom no pull harness and he acts much, much worse on a harness... He seems to know the difference if he's not wearing the prong and I have a much harder time keeping him from barking and lunging on a harness.

As far as positive stuff, I've tried being at a distance and marking and rewarding for not barking, moving closer and turning around and walking away if he starts getting amped up. Now we have made success as far as his threshold distances, the dogs have to be pretty darn close for him to react now, I'd say maybe 8 feet away... Beyond that he ignores them for the most part. His biggest issue is a dog walking head on at us, if the dog is right behind us he will want to look but he will not react.

I have also stopped all off leash play with dogs just in case it was contributing or was the main factor, that is the mega frustrating part is he is SO good with dogs off leash though from what I've read of feisty fido that is common. We have been working on it for 6 months... If we're around dogs for a period of time like a group class he will calm down within maybe 10 minutes and ignore them... He will usually not react if he's been worn out too like after herding training... So wish I could afford to do it everyday!!
 

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I'll try to remember to post something longer tomorrow. I'm afraid it never ends well if I try to write something long and thought out so late at night, lol.


Have you ever tried using a low-medium value treat during most of the walk, then when you see another dog approaching head on, whip out something that's very high value to him?


I'm also curious if premack might help. Like, when you do allow dog-dog interactions have him do some behaviors and then give him a release cue like "Go say hi!". So he learns that he can interact through you.
 

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how often are you interacting with other dogs? i made sure my dog was around
a lot of dogs. i had play dates at our house, i went to play dates, played
with neighborhood dogs, pet store meetings puppy class. when he was 6 months old
i started going to the dog park. around the same time i find a place in the woods
where people gather with their dogs twice a day. when my dog was around other
dogs i took sometime out for training.
 

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Have you ever tried using a low-medium value treat during most of the walk, then when you see another dog approaching head on, whip out something that's very high value to him?
QUOTE]

I'd be curious about this also.
 

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how often are you interacting with other dogs? i made sure my dog was around
a lot of dogs. i had play dates at our house, i went to play dates, played
with neighborhood dogs, pet store meetings puppy class. when he was 6 months old
i started going to the dog park. around the same time i find a place in the woods
where people gather with their dogs twice a day. when my dog was around other
dogs i took sometime out for training.
This is a good point, but a whole different ball game when a dog is almost a year and almost full grown. Unlike the OP, mine probably had almost zero interaction with other dogs. Mine is rude when he meets them..that is problem number one because that is a fight waiting to happen and I can't put my dog or another dog in that situation. To the OP, I have found that I have to completely mix up the way we train..positive, correction, distractions..anything that will work. I have found there is not one way to do it.
 

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My boy got leash reactive around 6 months too. He was just being a punk, I did two things. For the first few months whenever we had to walk into class or see other dogs I played tug with him. He wouldn't let the tug go so it was a "puppy pacifier" then around 8 months I started corrections. I gave a firm leave it command or fuss and if he ignored me got corrected for it. Now he has pretty much grown out of it completely. If he is thinking about posturing and then firing off a firm leave it will work. The hardest ones are out of control dogs (little yappers) coming at us, but if I put him in fuss we can walk by those controlled too.
I think positive training is great if the dog is doing it out if true aggression or fear, but Dante is fine with other dogs so I knew it was just punky frustration teenage behavior that needed to stop.


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I'm working on leash reactivity too. My boy got really bad last winter when he was 15 months old. I have private trainer with 8 gsd and every training they are in the room with us, behind a fence. After 3 months of training he is getting better in the classroom but still reacts outside with a strange dog. What is getting better is to get him under control. I do use prong to, does work great for us. I w do it pretty much same us MilesNY positivetraining and correction, not for reactivity but for disobeying heel command. By know I made a peace with knowledge this is going to take time and patience. Not much help just wanted to share my experience.
 

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I also started bringing a tug on our walks when I knew we'd see other dogs, right around the same age, lol. Now the frisbee (actually, it's a 'chewber') is what I use as a distraction. It works amazingly: although he loves interacting with other dogs, he absolutely adores his chewber and will ignore everything around him when he sees it.
 

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Your dog is at the age when this behavior really amps up, at least mine did.I felt like I had the perfect pup until 10-11 months old. Molly was on a prong since she was about 5 months old until she was about 2 yrs old. We live in a densely populated area too, so I know how important it is to have a dog that can walk nicely.

Here's what I think happened to Molly, maybe our experience will help you. At training all the dogs wore prongs and the facility allowed no interactions between dogs. So I think part of the leash reactivity was being pulled back when she or other dogs got close, could have made a negative association. The training center had a lot of energy, it was fun, but also got some dogs a bit over stimulated. So I think the fear of her reactivity made me unconsciously pull back on the leash during walks, again giving her a negative association. To top this off our trainers and breeder said she is a very strong willed dog, likes to be the dominant dog and is very large for a female and at this age still immature.

So what I tried to do was not pull on the prong but only use a pop/correction for "leave it" when passing a dog or cat. Once heel and leave it was understood, then I started using treats when walking. When we'd start approaching a dog or human on the sidewalk, I'd say in a nice voice leave it or "nice" a give a treat, as we got closer I'd stil talk and give treat putting myself between the dog and Molly and walk with a wide arc around them. After we'd pass I'd give another treat and praise. Then i would do this without the wide arc around the person or dog, then I put Molly in the left heel position seeing if she could be next to the person of dog instead of me. I took off the prong and did this without the prong and all went well. I feel like it was about 4 months of this type of walking before I took off the prong. Now that Molly is mature (3 yrs old) she is very social and friendly - it does get better! Recently we went on a walk and met a deaf dog, a lame Lab in a wagon and Molly was very gentle with them, then met two other no disabled dogs and a brief play periods with each one.
 

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My boy got leash reactive around 6 months too. He was just being a punk, I did two things. For the first few months whenever we had to walk into class or see other dogs I played tug with him. He wouldn't let the tug go so it was a "puppy pacifier" then around 8 months I started corrections. I gave a firm leave it command or fuss and if he ignored me got corrected for it. Now he has pretty much grown out of it completely. If he is thinking about posturing and then firing off a firm leave it will work. The hardest ones are out of control dogs (little yappers) coming at us, but if I put him in fuss we can walk by those controlled too.
I think positive training is great if the dog is doing it out if true aggression or fear, but Dante is fine with other dogs so I knew it was just punky frustration teenage behavior that needed to stop.
This is a good post- esp the part I bolded- thank you for sharing. So you don't correct the barking but the ignoring of the command which when he's corrected and obeying the command stops the barking. How old is your dog now as you said he's at this point he's grown out of it?
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
My boy got leash reactive around 6 months too. He was just being a punk, I did two things. For the first few months whenever we had to walk into class or see other dogs I played tug with him. He wouldn't let the tug go so it was a "puppy pacifier" then around 8 months I started corrections. I gave a firm leave it command or fuss and if he ignored me got corrected for it. Now he has pretty much grown out of it completely. If he is thinking about posturing and then firing off a firm leave it will work. The hardest ones are out of control dogs (little yappers) coming at us, but if I put him in fuss we can walk by those controlled too.
I think positive training is great if the dog is doing it out if true aggression or fear, but Dante is fine with other dogs so I knew it was just punky frustration teenage behavior that needed to stop.


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This is pretty much exactly what my herding instructor said that he's being a teenage arse and you need to correct him for it... He actually saw it happen first hand one day after training when an off leash Border Collie came running up to us. And like you said he is not actually aggressive, if we happen to get surprised by a dog coming nose to nose with us *coughflexicough* all he wants to do is play... He's never shown an ounce of aggression(off leash) to any dog, his only issue off leash is being an obnoxious greeter and wanting to meet every dog there ever was.

We are still working on our leave it and look command... He knows leave it but when he's amped up or in drive like when we're doing tug or the flirt pole it's just like in one ear out the other... Same for look. I guess I need to step up my game and be firmer with him.

But who can resist that face :)

Untitled (2013-07-15 05:23:27) by Carriesue82, on Flickr

He does also know focused heeling so I have been using that to distract him too when a dogs approaching us... The technique that works best for us right now for an oncoming dog is I will bring him to my side opposite the dog, if he's focusing on the dog I will tell him to leave it and put slight tension on the prong if he's still focusing. He won't get amped up at all doing this... If they are little white yappy dogs he will whine but that's usually the extent of it.
 

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This is a good post- esp the part I bolded- thank you for sharing. So you don't correct the barking but the ignoring of the command which when he's corrected and obeying the command stops the barking. How old is your dog now as you said he's at this point he's grown out of it?
That makes sense!
 

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I also started bringing a tug on our walks when I knew we'd see other dogs, right around the same age, lol. Now the frisbee (actually, it's a 'chewber') is what I use as a distraction. It works amazingly: although he loves interacting with other dogs, he absolutely adores his chewber and will ignore everything around him when he sees it.
I will try this though he has to be worked up in prey mode i.e flirt pole to actually care about his tug but couldn't hurt to try. The only thing he seems to find more valuable then a dog is sheep but I might get weird looks bringing one along on our walks. :D
 

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How about a small sheepskin tug? Expensive but worth it, lol. My boy will ignore the whole world around him for his flirt pole, his chewber, and his water toy - which is the sad remains of a chuck-it boomerang. Otherwise, the other dog wins his interest. But with one of those 3 toys, I'm ahead lol.
 

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The technique that works best for us right now for an oncoming dog is I will bring him to my side opposite the dog, if he's focusing on the dog I will tell him to leave it and put slight tension on the prong if he's still focusing. He won't get amped up at all doing this... If they are little white yappy dogs he will whine but that's usually the extent of it.
Ask your trainer or maybe another poster has more experience, but I would think you would not want to put continuous pressure on the prong- either it's a pop type correction or nothing as the pressure may be wrong timing and the association of dogs=uncomfortable might happen.

His picture is stunning, love his pigment :)
 

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Ask your trainer or maybe another poster has more experience, but I would think you would not want to put continuous pressure on the prong- either it's a pop type correction or nothing as the pressure may be wrong timing and the association of dogs=uncomfortable might happen.

His picture is stunning, love his pigment :)
I agree.
Hard pop, sometimes multiple if it does not get his attention.

I think Ollie is pretty too, but you know that :D (still wanna see him stacked!)
 

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Pops on a prong can load dogs, pressure can work (ie dominant dog collars) for getting a quite behavior. Pressure is released as soon as the behavior stops. Depends on the dog for what works when.

As for Dante, he is 3 now. I would say I had pretty good control over his reaction from about a year on and about 2.5 years he stopped even reacting to dogs in general with no commands from me. It really seems to be a maturity thing. I never let his reactions stop us from doing classes or anything. If he acted up he got corrected but in general he learned to focus on work and ignore the other dogs.


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This is a good point, but a whole different ball game when a dog is almost a year and almost full grown. Unlike the OP, mine probably had almost zero interaction with other dogs. Mine is rude when he meets them..that is problem number one because that is a fight waiting to happen and I can't put my dog or another dog in that situation. To the OP, I have found that I have to completely mix up the way we train..positive, correction, distractions..anything that will work. I have found there is not one way to do it.
Agree with this. The rude behavior can escalate very quickly. I also started with positive and added a prong collar when things weren't working out. There is no one trainer I've talked to whose advice I can follow to the letter. They are all different and you can learn something from each. I do find that teaching a nearly perfect informal heel and u-turn with the prong has helped a lot. It gives her something to focus on. BAT for reactivity has been a huge help when we have time to do it. Just be patient and keep working where your dog is at on that particular day. It will be frustrating but given enough time you should slowly start to see the good moments outweigh the bad.


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